Another year of golf is in the books.  It was a great year; I played in ten different states, improved my game and most importantly, learned a lot more about the courses in the Philly area.  Here are some of the highlights:

States played in:

New Jersey

Favorite Philly Round of the Year at a Course I Played for the First Time:

McCall.  Maybe because it was recent, but the guys there were great and I had a blast.  The course emphasizes the short game, yet I used almost all of the clubs in my bag.

Honorable mention goes to Bellewood out in Pottstown.  Its dual personality between a wide open front 9 and parkland back 9 works well and the holes are quite distinct in great condition.

Now I know both these courses are private, but they are accessible with the Victory Golf Pass, or at least they were in 2012.  But just in case…

Favorite Philly Round of the Year at a Public Course:

No surprise here….Glen Mills.  Play the twilight weekdays if the higher green fees scare you away.  This place never disappoints.  Conditions continue to be fantastic, the routing is nearly flawless and the setting is tranquil.  Many different ways to play each hole and just the right amount of challenge.

Honorable mention goes to Jeffersonville, any round I played there this year.  I never ran into a crowded day, even on weekends, conditions were great and I believe they made some recent changes that shot the slope rating up significantly.

Most Improved Course:

Inniscrone.  New ownership is making an effort to turn this place around and it shows.  Conditions are much better and the subtle changes made make the course more accessible without compromising the integrity of the design.

Best NJ Course I Played for the First Time this Year:
Mattawang.  A solid classic course.  Great value and no crowds.  Friendly and laid back staff.  The Wang is on my radar.

Honorable Mention goes to Knob Hill.  It had just the right amount of quirk to make it fun and the value was very good.

Biggest Course Disappointment:
Cobbs Creek.  This stays here until further notice.  This is one of the area’s great designs, but it has been poorly maintained for quite some time.  A few minor tweaks were made recently, but the fairways, rough, and tee areas are usually deplorable.  The Third is usually unplayable, or closed down completely.  Bunkers and greens are decent to good, though, and the course is worth a look in the early Spring.  I like that the management company is finding creative ways to market the course, but the place really needs an overhaul and better maintenance.  There are talks of restoring the course to its original design and I really hope that happens at some point.  This design is simply too good to let it go to waste.  
Most Overrated and Worst Value:
Downingtown.  What could be a charming walkable course in an area that does not have many public course options, D-town doesn’t live up to the hype.  The course itself has a few holes that are intriguing, but also many that are run of the mill parkland style fodder.  For example, the First features an elevated tee shot to a green that’s straight ahead, trees on the right.  Yawn.  The Eleventh is almost the same, but it’s longer and the tee shot isn’t as elevated.  To be fair, there are some interesting holes, like the Second, Fourth, Seventeenth and Eighteenth.  I believe the course used to be private and now offers memberships for those who want to play there all the time.  I’ve met some real nice guys, but have had more than a few run ins with bitter members or former members that are obviously frustrated with the pace of play.  I really hate to harp on the place this much, but the higher green fees don’t make sense here.  They get a lot of play, so people are willing to pay it, but there’s not enough here for me to fork over my money.  I suggest a weekday tee time to avoid most of these issues and truly enjoy a nice walkable round that D-Town is capable of offering without the high green fees and restless natives.
Courses I Played and Loved, but Didn’t Review Because of Technical Issues:
These technical issues included not playing an entire 18, but mainly not taking enough photos.  I will get back to these next season with a full report.
Iron Valley.  Only the front 9 was open, but wow this place was amazing.  The scenery is outstanding and it’s quite an ambitious design from PB Dye.  It’s a tough play.  Expect blind shots, elevations, railroad ties and an island green par 3.  The value is through the roof and as it’s close to Hershey, so I see a very cool area for a local golf getaway.  
Ingleside.  I was driving back from West PA and was looking for some where to play.  Every course I called was either hosting an outing or was getting bad weather, so I finally ran into this place in Thorndale.  At first, it looked like a run of the mill muni, but a few things stood out here that impressed me.  The players were top notch cordial, waving groups through as necessary, helping out with lost balls (not mine), etc.  The cart girl had some great beer deals and came around a lot.  But most significantly, the course is a lot of fun and in great shape.  Lots of dramatic elevated tee shots, including the 200 foot drop shot par 3, and elevated greens.  For the price of a glove, you can play here and have a great time.
Bala:  Another private course that had a Victory tee time available.  Lots of interesting holes from a Billy Flynn design that is maintained very well.  The Eighteenth is a longer par 3.  I always seem to enjoy ending with a par 3 for some reason.  The members were also nice.
Non-Philly Courses Section
Best Non-Philly Course Played this Year
Chambers Bay.  An unforgettable round for many reasons.  Inexcusable not to play here if you’re in the area.
Honorable Mention goes to Jackson Hole Golf and Tennis Club.  This selection was very close between a number of courses I was fortunate to play this year, but the scenery at JHGTC is breath taking and the design was good enough to stay focused on golf. 
Best Non Philly Golf Course Value this Year:
Oxmoor Valley.  The RTJ trail doesn’t disappoint.  An outstanding course for what I’d normally pay for a muni round, with all the bells and whistles.  I plan on coming back for an extended stay to get a feel for all the Trail has to offer.
Honorable mention goes to ASU Karsten and Cog Hill (other than No. 4).  Memorable golf at both places for the price of a pair of jeans.  
Personal Golf Memories Section
Best shot of the year:
Raven’s Claw, Memorial Day, First Hole, Third shot.  After a great drive, I mis hit my second shot into the rough on the left side of the fairway.  I took my PW, swung hard, carried over the trees, and landed close to the pin for a birdie putt.  
Honorable mention goes to my driver and 3 wood.  Definitely most improved with a lot more distance here.  Shots that stick out are my drive at the Tenth at Chambers Bay, 240 yards into the wind, setting up a nice approach shot that I promptly shanked.  Just a nice low ball flight that seemed to float forever.  3 wood shots that stick out are my tee shots at Glen Mills.  Nice and straight and some times longer than other player’s drives.  Yeah a little bragging, so to keep me sane….
Worst shot of the year:
There are sure a lot to choose from.  One that really sticks out was at Knob Hill, forget the hole, but I was on the tee with the beloved driver I was touting above.  The ball popped up about 10 feet in the air to the left a little, before dropping down near the ball cleaner.  
Honorable mention goes to pretty much every bunker shot this year.  I was terrible in them until recently.  At Chambers Bay, I think I actually tossed my ball at the flagstick after trying to get out of one a few times.  
Two more stick out.  At Bella Vista at the Island Green par 3, I topped my tee shot, which went into the water.  I then went to the drop area, where I had to carry water to get to the green.  I chunked not one, but two, into the water.  I walked away without finishing the hole and swore off golf….until I got to the next hole.
Also at ASU Karsten at the Ninth hole.  Water was all along the right side.  Tee shot went in the drink. Dropped in the fairway, hit that one in the drink.  
Wish list for next season:
These are places on my list next year that I have yet to play.  I don’t think I’ll get to as many states, but there will be some interesting courses, in the Philly area and beyond….
Iron Valley
Bethpage Black (and likely Red as well)
Back Creek
Pinehurst No. 2
Shadow Creek
Running Deer
Atlantic City CC
Shore Gate
Bandon Dunes
And these will always be on my list, just waiting for the opportunity to present itself:
Augusta National
Cypress Point
Pine Valley
Merion East
Sand Hills
By no means an exclusive list.  
Happy New Year to all and here’s to hitting ’em straight in 2013!